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Sestina on new country

In Oklahoma Territory - new, Half-settled country - all the roads were rough, Rain-washed, wind-blown, with black-jack roots and stones In every track to jolt the heavy wheels Of clumsy wagons, lumbering along, Never easy-riding at the best. What settler of such country asks the best? Poor men came here, knowing the land was new, New to the plow, at least, and brought along Little enough but children, wives, and rough And poor possessions. Tires on their wheels Tightened in fords, loosened again on stones. They found no Eden. Hilltops thick with stones Became their pastures. Sandy fields plowed best, But winds blew the soil away. Hooves and wheels Left streaks across the prairie. All of it new, The landscape gathered scars. The life was rough While those first early seasons dragged along. Yet I saw wonders. Strangers drove along, Their covered wagons jostling over the stones; Herds of longhorn cattle, ragged and rough Of coat, went past our house; such sights - the best, An Indian, hair in braids, his saddle new, His pony old and gaunt. No trust in wheels! And better horses had their fear of wheels. My father's half-wild ponies would go along, Fidgeting, nervous, startled by anything new. Some sound or sight, the clatter of tires on stones, A scuttling rabbit, would start them running -- best, Or so they seemed to think, where the ground was rough. Those exciting ponies! Smooth or rough, Whatever the road, a light rig's spinning wheels, Or a wagon's lurching, brought a driver's best Resource and skill to play. And all along The trails across the prairie, among the stones, Were strange wild flowers. I thought the world was new. But each child's world is new, perhaps; and rough Or smooth, what matter? Stones and wagon wheels -- He takes his world along; his own is best.

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